Stellar Reef, Sven’s Reef and Chimney Rock

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On Sunday we had superb weather, four boat drivers and enough people to take out both our club boats. That’s a perfect mix for a great day of diving!

Instead of the usual Queenscliff launch we launched our boats from Barwon. The boat ramp there is some ways inland along the Barwon River and you have to navigate through some really shallow water to get to the open ocean. But on the positive side you avoid going through the Port Phillip Heads which makes things a lot more manageable for less experienced boat drivers. And as an added bonus there are lots of excellent reef dives in the vicinity of Barwon Heads.

We were planning to do three dives so we met up at the shed really early in the morning. Getting there on Sunday morning is always a pain but this time it was particularly annoying. Melbourne’s White Night festival was held on Saturday night and that meant no public transport running through the city center. So to get to the club shed I actually had to take a bit of a detour and do some extra walking. Still, by getting up at 5:20 I got to the shed in time and that’s what counts!

We had just enough divers to fill up both our boats and to make things little bit easier we had both boats doing the same sites. This worked out pretty well as we always had plenty of experienced divers watching after the less experienced ones. Things went quite smoothly too with the boats apart from a few times when we got to too shallow water. Luckily the riverbed is quite soft so no lasting harm was done. 🙂

Our first dive of the day was Stella Reef, a nice easy reef dive near the Barwon Heads. I hadn’t done the site before so it was nice to check it out. It was nice enough reef with some cool swimthroughs and plenty of ledges and overhangs. I was diving with Andrew and Steph and unfortunately Steph had some issues with her weighting. As a result we did a fairly short dive. Still, there was plenty to see down there and the conditions were excellent. No surge, minimal waves and visibility was good too.

Apart from the interesting reef itself and the fish life down there we also saw a fiddler ray. Some others spotted Port Jackson sharks as well, but we missed them. 🙁

After Stella Reef we visited the boat ramp to pick up fresh tanks and then headed to Sven’s Reef. On all my previous dives there it has been rather surgy down there but that wasn’t luckily an issue on Sunday. Visibility wasn’t quite as nice as at Stella but apart from that I find the site more interesting. There’s more vertical variation and some rather impressive pillars and overhangs. Fish life wasn’t perhaps quite as good as last time I was there but it was still quite rich and varied.

Unfortunately we had some minor equipment issues on this dive as well. I was buddied with Nicky and her regulator was freeflowing during descent. The only way she was able to fix it was to switch to her secondary. Luckily that got rid of the issue and the rest of the dive went without incidents.

We explored the area for quite a while and spotted plenty of fish, including a dusky morwong. Nicky also saw a seal, unfortunately I thought at first that she was having issues with her reg again so I missed it. 🙁 Still a great dive, nice to do Sven’s for once without the surge!

After reading up on Chimney Rock  I was really keen to dive it since we were launching from Barwon anyway. Unfortunately I was unable to find coordinates for the site, it’s a decent cray spot so most people keep the mark to themselves. Luckily Sven was able to provide us the coordinates after a quick text to him, he’s an useful guy to know!

But first we had to get some airfills and that proved to be quite an ordeal. It should have been a simple enough thing as Dive Vic in Queenscliff is only a short drive away from Barwon. Unfortunately filling up the tanks somehow  took several hours, I’m still not quite sure what actually happened. Nonetheless, we got the tanks filled eventually and were able to head off for our final dive of the day. Some people were too tired at this point to do a third dive but we still had a fair number of divers heading out.

Luckily Chimney Rock was well worth the extra effort. The site has a very interesting structure and it’s perhaps the best reef dive I have near Melbourne. It’s relatively small bommie with ledges, overhangs and windows everywhere. There’s also a small hollow “chimney” in the middle which gives the site its name. And to make it even better the site is reasonably shallow and suitable for open water divers as well.

The fish life there’s excellent and quite a few people also spotted some Port Jackson sharks in the area. Unfortunately I missed those but it was still an excellent dive and well worth a return visit. I had a superb dive there with Luke and Mel.

By the time everyone had finished their dives it was already getting fairly late and close to sunset. We headed back to the shore, got the boats back on the trailers and started driving back towards Melbourne. At this point everyone was keen to get back to the city after a really long day.

It took us a while to get everything washed back at the shed, by then it was already quite late and everyone was getting tired. Still, considering the excellent diving it was well worth the extra effort!

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